This week (13-19 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) and this year’s theme is focussed on body image and how it impacts our mental health.
The term ‘body image’ is used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and well-being.
What are girls are telling us?
A new survey of 1,118 UK teenagers (aged 13-18) by the Mental Health Foundation discovered that 37% felt upset about their body image. While body image concerns affect both boys and girls, girls are more likely to experience body dissatisfaction than boys. In the Mental Health Foundation survey, 46% of girls reported that their body image causes them to worry ‘often’ or ‘always’ compared to 25% of boys.
Body dissatisfaction can have huge consequences for girls’ well-being, relationships and ability to enjoy themselves. Girls who are less happy with how they look will be less likely to play sports and will be less confident in job interviews.
What causes body dissatisfaction?
At GB’s Esther Generation Weekend last February, our own GB members told us that issues like our culture’s strive for perfectionism, unrealistic airbrushed images in advertising and gender stereotypes are impacting their mental well-being. Parents, family members and peers also influence how we perceive ourselves and in our hyper-connected word, social media also plays a huge factor. For example, 54% of girls in the Mental Health Foundation survey said that images on social media have caused them to be anxious about their own body image.
How can we support girls to thrive and flourish?
GB’s Mission and Advocacy Enabler Dr Claire Rush shares ‘Body anxiety can be prevented. We need to change our cultural values, parenting styles, schooling approaches, use of technology and advertising standards to make a real difference. But we can start by creating a more inclusive culture in our families, communities and GB groups, which demonstrate the Godly truth that our value doesn’t depend on our waist size.
‘As a GB leader, don’t underestimate the great job that you’re already doing. GB groups are safe environments for girls to explore faith and the issues that matter to them like mental health, as well as being invested in by older women. Through GB, girls are experiencing the life to the full that Jesus spoke about in John Ch.10:10.’
Chloe Twist, who participated in the Esther Generation Weekend 2018 and is a member of 26th Liverpool GB group, shares ‘GB has improved my mental well-being because it’s given me a wonderful support network which surrounds me.’
Be encouraged – you’re making a difference.
Here’s 5 ways we can continue to turn up the volume of hope on mental health and promote positive body image in our GB groups:
Pray for GB's work and impact this month by downloading our prayer flyer for August 2019 or by checking out some online prayer pointers.Read more
30 Girls’ Brigade leaders attended Girls’ Brigade Ministries’ Ruth & Naomi taster retreat weekend at Cliff College from 6-7 July 2019.Read more
Around 80 GB leaders attended our summer conference today in Derbyshire for a day of equipping and inspiration.